Spice up the ice!
With summer just around the corner, it’s no ice–no dice! From poolside parties to sparkling soirees, hosts and hostesses around the country are breaking out the ice trays to serve perfect chilled beverages. The way you accessorize yours will make the perfect conversation piece. When your guests clink their drinks, there will be a little something extra to toast with your one-of-a-kind ice cubes. Now, cooling off your drink doesn’t have to mean watering it down. Add flavors and garnishes with these inventive ice ideas:
Fruit Juice “Ice Buffet”
Colors are just as much fun to play with as flavors. Embrace your inner “mad scientist” as you taste-test and decide what flavors mix most pleasingly. Try tropical combinations like orange-cranberry, mango-banana, raspberry-lime, or pineapple-coconut. Remember, apple is the “little black dress” of the fruit kingdom; it goes well with almost anything, as does pear.
Freeze a variety of fruit juices, each to its own square, into small ice cube trays a night or two before the party, and present them in a buffet arrangement with each flavor clearly labeled. Smaller ice cubes not only look more delicate, but allow guests to fit more into their drinks. You’ll only want to present one tray at a time, so the rest of the cubes won’t melt while they’re waiting. Remember to present a colorful variety of options.
Start the party by handing out glasses of plain champagne, vodka, or club soda. Your guests can then make their way down the ice buffet, combining flavors in any way they wish. As the cubes melt, the flavors mingle freely–encouraging your guests to do the same!
Flower Petals and Herbs
Although the flavor these cubes impart is subtle, they pack a strong visual punch for your party punch. Before you freeze your ice, sprinkle in a few petals from edible flowers like roses or violets. You can buy candied flower petals, or candy your own, for an added touch. (When using flower petals, always remember to shop for pesticide-free flowers so they don’t contaminate your drink.) Depending on the drink, you also may wish to include frozen herbs such as small basil leaves or sprigs of rosemary.
Are you concerned that all your petals are just floating to the top of the cube? Fill your tray halfway, sprinkle your additions, and freeze for a few hours before adding the rest of the water and freezing again.
You can also achieve layered colors of ice with this technique. Using different fruit juices or food colorings, you can produce an ice cube with as many color layers as you have patience to keep freezing, pouring, and re-freezing. Rainbow ice cubes are guaranteed to be a hit at children’s parties.
Want to take your party to the next level? Add some artisan flavors for an unexpected twist on the classics. Spice up your ice trays with a dash of cayenne pepper, lemon juice, fresh mint, or ginger. Iced olive juice, or cubes with olives frozen inside, are always a hit for “dirty” martinis.
You can suspend nearly anything in an ice tray. If it sinks, simply freeze the lower half of the ice cube first before adding the garnish and the rest of the water. Experiment with adding maraschino cherries, candied fruit peels, whole cranberries, Mandarin oranges, Champagne grapes, and slices of Key lime. If any addition matches the flavor of the drink, it’s fair game!
If you think your ice cubes still look a little plain, you can add some food coloring of the appropriate color–but be subtle. Even faint colors go a long way.
Ice shapes are more than artistic; they determine how quickly the ice melts. This is important if you don’t want your drink diluted too much–say, in the case of an aged Scotch. For Tiki style drinks, on the other hand, small ice cubes will stir more easily and chill the drink more quickly.
You can freeze ice in nearly any shape you like. Don’t own an ice cube tray in your favorite shape? No problem! Freeze large, round chunks of ice in muffin tins or any other holder you like. Some stores even offer molds to make your own ice shot-glasses, but you’ll have to drink them quickly before they melt!
Popular ice shapes include spheres, hearts, diamonds, tiny boats, long spears, and ice that’s been hand-chipped from larger blocks. If you want a more complex shape, you’ll probably have to buy a mould in the appropriate form.
If you want flawless ice with no clouds or bubbles, the easiest way to achieve this at home is by freezing distilled water. Some bartenders recommend boiling the water first. Filtered water also freezes more cleanly than regular tap water. The trick is removing as many impurities as you can.
Are you ready to get started? Be careful to remove all strong-smelling items from your freezer before you make the cubes. You don’t want your cocktails tasting of those bulk garlic bagels you just bought! Placing a few open boxes of baking soda around the ice cube trays as they freeze will also help to absorb wayward smells.
With your one-of-a-kind iced drinks, you’ll be fully prepared for summer hosting. Just choose your flavors, freeze, and enjoy!